Methadone Maintenance Clinics: Everything You Need to Know
If you’re addicted to opiates, a methadone clinic can provide ongoing medication maintenance to help you quit them.
Committing to a methadone maintenance program for at least 1 year will likely change your life for the better and help you commit to staying clean.
You may not be aware of any methadone clinics in your city, but rest assured they can be found in every state in the U.S. and they are a great option if you’ve been struggling to put an end to your opiate addiction.
Still unsure? To relieve some of the apprehension you may have around methadone maintenance, here are the answers to some of the pressing questions you may have about getting treatment at a methadone clinic.
Am I Eligible for Methadone Maintenance?
The first step in getting methadone maintenance is to get assessed by the clinic. Anyone can receive an assessment for methadone maintenance. Don’t be scared, methadone clinics strive to foster a welcoming environment for those seeking help for opiate addiction and their goal is to help you—you can expect to be treated in a respectful manner by staff members.
Keep in mind, while their goal is to help you find the best solutions for your treatment, there may be limitations to what the clinic will be able to do for you. For example, some clinics may only be able to help those who have been addicted to opiates for more than a year, or they may not be able to treat you if you don’t have a consenting adult and you’re considered a minor.
What Will the Assessment Entail?
In order to provide you with the best and safest treatment possible, you need to make sure that staff members have the most accurate and up-to-date information about you. You are likely going to have to give them your:
- Demographic information (age, sex, date of birth).
- Medical history, including any diseases transmitted through sexual intercourse or through shared needles.
- Psychiatric history, including mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and psychosis.
- Risk assessment, including information about past or present thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.
- Past and current drug use, which may include a detailed report of the drugs that you have used in the last month up to one year.
- History of withdrawal symptoms (experienced currently or in the past).
Try to remember that the staff members will be asking these questions to ensure your safety during treatment. The first 2 weeks of treatment are the most dangerous. If you are not completely honest about other drugs you are using, you could be placing yourself at risk for an accidental overdose.
It is especially important to be honest about your use of other central nervous system depressants, such as:
- Other opiates.
- Prescribed medications, such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and sleep medications (e.g., Ambien).
Remember, the staff members at methadone clinics are not there to judge you; they are there to help and they rely on your honesty to help you get the best results.
What Kind of Treatments do Methadone Clinics Provide?
Methadone clinics provide both inpatient and outpatient levels of care. Once you’ve completed your initial assessment they will tell you which treatment course will best suit your situation.
If you are considered to be a high-risk client the staff will discuss inpatient treatment with you. If you have been using multiple drugs, opiates at high levels, have engaged in high-risk activities, have relapsed frequently or do not have a supportive environment conducive to quitting, you may be asked to voluntarily check in to an inpatient clinic. This precaution is to ensure your safety and to be able to monitor you for severe withdrawal symptoms.
If, however, you are considered a low-risk patient, you may be set up with outpatient care. Sometimes facilities are overcrowded and they cannot provide inpatient care. In these cases they are legally able to provide you with services up to 120 days with minimal screening.
Is Treatment Voluntary?
Unless you are considered a risk to yourself or others and are referred to a 72-hour hold, your treatment is 100% voluntary. Methadone clinics will not provide you with methadone maintenance without your complete and voluntary informed consent.
The consent process will include you signing that you understand the facility services, procedures, rules and expectations. By signing you agree to conduct yourself in the manner outlined by the facility.
One example is complying to random urine analyses. Methadone will not show a positive opiate result, so the facility will be able to tell if you are getting opiates elsewhere, which could violate your treatment contract and lead to a discontinuation of services.
What does Methadone Maintenance Treatment Look Like?
You’ll probably receive your first treatment on the day of your initial assessment, as long as you’re eligible. Your initial dosage will not exceed 40 mg but will be slowly increased over the next few weeks with a final dosage goal of anywhere from 80 to 120 mg.
Once you transition to outpatient treatment, you’ll need to return to the clinic everyday in order to receive your supervised daily dosage. If you build up trust and show that you are a reliable client, usually for a length of time between 6 months to 1 year, the facility may entrust you with dosages of up to 4 weeks at a time.
James, R.R. (2009). How Methadone Clinics Work. Emergency Medicine News, 31(4), 8-10.